By Lynne Snierson
Trainer John Botty, who saved one of his former charges he feared may have headed for slaughter, and track announcer Larry Collmus are among the winners of the 2012 annual awards to be bestowed by the New England Turf Writers Association.
Botty is the trainer of former New England horses of the year Lovethatdirtywater and Sassy City in addition to multiple regional champions, and a long-time conditioner at Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park.
Over the summer, he learned a 12-year-old chestnut mare he used to train named Our Revival was among 10 broodmares to be sold at a Texas auction where some horses have reportedly been shipped to Mexican slaughterhouses. Botty had been notified by people who monitor Thoroughbreds sold at auction. Because he didn’t know where the mare would end up, Botty called Old Friends founder Michael Blowen, who remembered the mare from his time as a writer for the Boston Globe. They arranged for her to be transported to Kentucky, where she now spends her days at Old Friends farm for retired Thoroughbreds.
The story received considerable media attention and Botty’s actions raised awareness for racehorse aftercare. For his actions, Botty will receive the Lou Smith Award for contributions to New England racing during the year.
Collmus, who was the announcer at Suffolk from 1992-2008, will be honored with the Bob Varey Memorial Media Award. In 2011, he was named the new "Voice of the Triple Crown" and this year he also called the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Ladies Classic for NBC Sports. Collmus is currently the announcer at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park.
Lee Alphen, the leader of the Racetrack Ministry program in New England, will be the recipient of the prestigious Sam McCracken Award for lifetime contributions. “Chaplain Lee” has been serving members of the New England Thoroughbred community since 1975. She leads weekly services and organizes group activities such as barbecues and softball games. At the end of each summer, she spearheads a drive to provide back-to-school supplies to children of families within the local racing community.
Alphen also ministers to the harness racing community in Massachusetts and Maine, and is currently the executive director of the Christian Harness Horsemen’s Association.
The annual champions, as voted by members of NETWA, are:
2-year-old filly—Dreaming of Jazz
2-year-old male—Raven's Tune
Robert M. O’Malley Memorial Award—3-year-old male– Scaramagna
Older female—Surely Irish
James R. Bishop Memorial Award, Older male—Scorpion Strike
Turf female—P Js Lil Toni
Joseph E. Carney Memorial Award, Turf male—Perfect Joiski
Cliff Sundberg Memorial Award, New England-bred—Southoftheborder
Special Achievement—David Amiss, Charles River Racing, Jill Jellison, Swampy Town
Eli Chiat Memorial Award, Outstanding Jockey—Tammi Piermarini
Gerry Sullivan Memorial Award, Outstanding Trainer—Jay Bernardini
Bob Varey Memorial Award, Media—Larry Collmus
Lou Smith Memorial Award, Yearly Achievement—John Botty
Sam McCracken Memorial Award – Lifetime Achievement—Chaplain Lee Alphen
The winner of the James B. Moseley Award for Horse of the Year will be revealed at the awards dinner, which will be held in July. The NETWA’s Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be announced in the spring and will also be honored at the awards dinner.